Remarkable Student Leader Supports Tools for School Program 

Posted on September 9th, 2019

Students in Simpson’s Housing Services’ Family Housing Program will be prepared for school this fall because of backpack and school supply donations received through its annual Tools for School campaign.  

Will McDonald, an incoming 11th grader at The Blake School in Minneapolis, is supporting this effort by organizing donations from Blake students and families for the second year in a row. This year, he is helping 65 students through his donations to the Tools for School program.  

Will learned about Simpson a few years ago as he was exploring local service opportunities through Blake’s service-learning program. “I visited Simpson’s shelter in 8th or 9th grade. I remembered Simpson, explored their website again, and looked for ways to get involved,” he says. 

He decided to make a positive impact on families and homelessness through education. “I think that education is really important, and it can help bring people out of homelessness. Having a child with a brand-new backpack and supplies, ready to learn  it has a lot of power.” 

Working closely with the school’s Director of Service Learning and Community Engagement, Lisa Sackreiter, and through word of mouth, Will recruited more than 60 students and families to help with Tools for School. He matched each volunteer with a student, provided school supply lists and student preferences, and set up supply drop-off locations at Blake’s three campuses. 

“I was amazed by the sheer number of backpacks that were donated and the time people took to choose the backpacksconsidering the child’s preferences,” he says.  “Volunteers went above and beyond to get them something they would really like.” 

Will delivered two huge carloads of backpacks and school supplies to Simpson’s Avivo office location in early August. Simpson Family Advocates delivered the backpacks and school supplies to students in their homes before the start of the new school. 

During the supply drop off, Will connected with soon-to-be 4th grade student, David, and his mom, Jessica who are participants in Simpson’s Family Housing Program. Earlier this summer, Will went shopping and hand-picked a backpack and supplies for David.  

Carefully unpacking the school supplies from his bag, David studied each item and flashed a huge smile when he unpacked a Pokémon lunchbox. When asked what he thought about his new backpack, he enthusiastically replied, “I like it!” 

Simpson’s Tools for School Program is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. This year, thirty volunteer groups and individuals participating in the Tools for School campaign donated new backpacks and school supplies for a total of 282 children and youth in Simpson’s Family Housing and Youth Housing programs. Altogether, 130 families were supported through the program.

Simpson’s Director of Volunteer Engagement Christina Giese describes the impact of the Tools for School program: “The generous contributions of our donors mean so much to the students and families at Simpson. Donations to our Tools for School campaign encourage positive educational outcomes for children in our programs. Students are better prepared to participate in the classroom, complete their homework, and connect with their peers. We are grateful for the community’s support.”